Following a couple of changes in the language of South St. Paul DFL Representative Rick Hansen's silica sand mining regulation bill, rival bill author --and more industry-friendly--representative Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) signed on to HF906.
Hansen shared news of Kelly's approval as the Minnesota House Government Operations committee heard the amended bill on Friday, March 15.
In the amended bill, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) retains responsibility for drawing up standards and selecting a seven-member technical assistance team for local government. Drawn largely from state agency personnel, the team will become involved in projects when local government requests the help. Making the request voluntary had been a sticking point in earlier iterations of the language.
Plans created by the team will not require review by the EQB. Also added: a EQB-maintained reference library of local permits and ordinances and the development of an air quality health advisory for silica sand by January 1, 2014.
The bill now heads to the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee, chaired by environmental champion Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis).
Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) has also added her name as co-sponsor.
In Friday's Politics in Minnesota article, Sand in the gears, staff writer Charley Shaw took a closer look at the politics of the various house and senate bills. He reports:
. . .The frac sand issue illustrates the ingrained power struggle among DFL committee chairs with respect to the demands of environment and industry. The third prong of the power struggle is Gov. Mark Dayton, whose views on frac sand mining remain a mystery at this point. Dayton signaled his awareness of the issue before the session began when he told reporters that frac sand mining would be a “huge” issue. And on Thursday he sent another signal that he’s tuned into frac sand mining, releasing a revised budget that includes $1.9 million to pay for a team of six state agencies and boards that would provide technical assistance to local units of government related to silica sand mining. The funding would be supported by new fees on the extraction and processing of silica sand. . . .
Groundwater, sand mining and sinkholes
In other news, Pioneer Press outdoors columnist Dave Orrick links the paper's ongoing investigation into troubling groundwater use to potential demand on aquifers by the industrial sand mining industry. He reports in Sportsmen should pay attention to groundwater issues:
This week, my colleagues and I are writing on Minnesota groundwater. Aquifers. Water that invisibly flows through porous (sand), semi-porous (limestone) and surprisingly porous (fractured shale) layers of underground rock. The stories focus on public water supplies, conservation at home and whether we're stressing these subterranean sponges too much. But there are serious impacts for outdoors lovers and the places we love. . . .
It's also possible that a frac-sand mining operation that washes sand with well water and then returns that water to the same ground, could be conserving water and damaging the local stream trout populations at the same time. In fact, it's possible that more traditional limestone- and gravel-mining operations could do the same, said Steve Klotz, the Lanesboro-area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"Some of the proposals out there are throwing around some big water appropriations," Klotz said. "We've got one that could potentially impact the big spring that supplies water to our hatchery."
Decades of shoreline protection and restoration projects in southeast Minnesota deserve credit for the area's outstanding stream trout fishery. But an essential facet of the trout's ability to reproduce naturally, as they are doing in most waters, is the constant temperature -- usually about 48 degrees -- that water flows, year-round, when it emerges from springs in the limestone bluffs of the Driftless Area. Browns and brookies aren't fans of wild temperature fluctuations. Water doesn't take long to get from the surface to aquifers in the porous earth, but it takes long enough to reach that temperature, either by cooling in the summer or warming in the winter.
But the area is prone to sinkholes, Klotz explained. Pull too much water out of an aquifer, and it can collapse. . . .
Check out the whole column at the PiPress. It's no wonder Trout Unlimited is paying close attention to the issue--and letters from informed citizens are peppering the region's newspapers.
Photo: Brown trout from Whitewater State Park. Via Everyday Family, Everything Outdoors.
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